Friday, November 21, 2014

Potential, Perfection and the Heresy of Inconsequentialism

Our Faith is made to be brought to life in a certain way.  Our Faith is not designed to be shut up and suffocated, placed on a shelf like other dry and dead things.  Our Faith is like a seed, a seed that is designed and programmed to bring forth a certain kind of life in a certain kind of way.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any force, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love. (Gal. 5:6)

Other translations, instead of "faith working through love" say "faith expressing itself through love", which is a far weaker rendering of what appears to be the force of the original Greek.

but only
4102 [e]
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ἐνεργουμένη  .

"Working" in this interlinear translation stands for the word energoumene "ἐνεργουμένη", which is related to our English word "energy".  These words, then, can almost be rendered,

"Faith which makes itself alive and active in love" / "Faith which is operative in love" / "Faith which is perfected in love."

Indeed, one of the commentaries on this verse says ...

The apostle, therefore, by the words, πίστις δι ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη means not, "faith through love doing works of beneficence,' 'but "faith evincing its vitality and power through the love which it begets in us;" "faith by love operative and influential.' 'Love is not contemplated as a separate acting of the Spirit, added on to faith as it were by an extrinsic effort of the soul, but as a product of faith itself, by which faith exerts its own internal energy.

In other words, there is something in the nature of Faith that, if allowed to bloom, becomes alive in love.  James tells us that "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:17), which is to say that unless Faith "energizes" and is allowed to give life as Love, it is like a seed which does not take root.  Dead things lead to nothing; living things lead to surprising things; living things "express themselves" by becoming what is implicit in them.

But we prefer dead things.  This is the age of Sterility writ large. We are Inconsequentialists these days.  We all share in the mindset of the heresy of Inconsequentialism, which denies that one thing leads to another.  Not only is it beyond us to imagine that Faith, when living, becomes Love; we find it hard to imagine that anything leads to anything else, that there are Consequences built into the nature of reality.  Reality, for us, is make believe.  It is Unreal.  It is a handy fiction we create to suit ourselves.

At the heart of this is the denial of sin.  For sin is simply that human act that leads to enslavement and death.  And those are Consequences we'd rather not see.

This all goes back to the interesting discussion some of my readers and I were having with Harry, my blog reader from Wales.  (See the post and the comments here).  Harry was claiming that the movie about Joseph Sciambra (the ex-gay porn star who is now a devout Catholic) was kind of like Reefer Madness, the B-movie from the old days that tried to shock people away from marijuana by making absurd and extreme claims about the effects of using the drug.  Harry's point was that there are many faithful Catholics who take pride in identifying themselves as "gay", though they struggle to remain celibate, as the Church calls them to do, and that a movie about the life of a man that was filled with the lurid side of the gay porn industry of San Francisco, complete with satanism and other horrors, is not the best way to evangelize others and ignores the dignity of these apparently celibate but self-proclaimed "gay" Catholics.

My response was hard for me to articulate.  But it really came down to this.

Everything has a telos, an end for which it is designed, a perfection toward which it tends.  The telos of a human sperm and a human egg is a new living man or woman.  The telos of the acorn is the oak.  The telos of love is life.

And the proper end, the perfection as it were, of Same Sex Attraction is the hell that Joseph Sciambra led - tremendous promiscuity, mutual abuse, violence, drug abuse, sexually transmitted disease, and the objectification of the human person in pornography and in other ways.  This is not to say that all cases of Same Sex Attraction lead to these things, but it is to say that they tend to because that's the "perfection" inherent in the desire itself.

Here are some examples from what I wrote in the comment box at that post to illustrate what I mean ...

There seems to be a movement afoot that's analogous to the Westian movement. I would call it a kind of "grooming" or "slippery slope" - but "grooming" is really what it is. If your homosexual neighbors keep their lawn nice, how bad can they be? And if they are good people (and of course most of them are), then how bad can same sex attraction be? And if same sex attraction is not bad in itself, then how bad can acting on it be? 
Gay men are much more promiscuous than straight me, for example. I have written before on this blog of a high school friend I had who confessed to me that he was gay and admitted to having dozens of encounters every weekend in the men's room of the truck stop where he worked, from the age of 16 or so on. Most high school guys I knew then had maybe one or two sexual encounters by the time we graduated; my gay friend had had hundreds. 
In addition, I've got plenty of anecdotal life experience to draw on, especially as I've been in show business all of my life. Every gay actor I ever hired or worked with was extremely promiscuous, prone to depression and sometimes quite willing to act selfishly and leave his other actors in a lurch if the mood struck him. 
Of course the crux here is my contention that the disorder itself (the temptation - the sexual attraction to your same sex) has the seeds to lead to what Sciambra experienced. In fact, his life is the natural conclusion to where that's headed. In the same way that all unrepented sin leads to slavery and to death and ultimately to hell, so this temptation to [this kind of] sin is a temptation to exactly that.
I've mentioned before that my sin of choice would be adultery, if I ever decided to give in to the temptation. I've known a lot of adulterers. Are some able to cheat and be happy? Are some able to leave their wives and find contentment with the other woman? Are they all troubled by their consciences? Of course, you can find happy, well adjusted adulterers, but at least here in the States adultery goes hand in hand with a wake of misery - both for the children, the spouse, and even for the adulterer. There's a pattern you see in guys who cheat. You can spot what the decision to cheat will ultimately do to them and their families, even if a few specific cases don't fall quite as far.
My biggest point here is while we must love gays and not harass them, while they must have equal rights and have our respect for being fellow humans made in the image and likeness of God, while we must always acknowledge that this particular cross to bear is something those of us not bearing it have no business judging or being smug about - that while all of these things are true, the attraction itself will lead to pain and suffering. That's why it's a sin.
Look at the attraction to porn. It's a temptation every man alive experiences. But Sciambra is quite right - the use of porn leads to addiction, and to tolerance, to the need for more and more degraded images, and often to acting out with others on the lust that pornography stokes.
Does this mean that every man who uses porn becomes a perverted porn addict, whose ability to relate to women becomes compromised? Of course not. In fact, most don't experience anything that extreme. 
But we know that this is where porn leads. We know that playing with it is like playing with a loaded gun. That's why neither you nor any sane person would emphasize the good that's in pornography - though the Christopher West crew tends to do just that. We know that, even though the use of porn won't necessarily destroy your life (or send you to hell), it has the potential to, and in fact that's where it's made to lead you to.
It's hard to articulate these things because we've forgotten that everything that exists has a perfection toward which it tends - and the perfection of sin is death, the eternal death and horror of hell.

And at the very least to a hell on earth.

In the case of Joseph Sicambra, that's exactly where it led, and that's exactly where it's designed to lead.


John Henry said...

Does this mean that every man who uses porn becomes a perverted porn addict, whose ability to relate to women becomes compromised? Of course not.

Playing with porn is not like playing with a loaded gun. Playing with a loaded gun is risky - you might blow your head off, but you might also wind up just fine. With porn, there are always consequences, although - as you say - sometimes worse than others. My impression is that people who think they are consuming porn consequence-free just don't understand the consequences or appreciate how different their mind and relationships would be without it.

Scott W. said...

It's an old saw, but it goes that addicts can't recover until they hit rock bottom. Sicambra certainly hit it. In a sense, he was in better shape at that point than the people with the well-manicured lawns in that all the enablers shouting that there was no fire couldn't drown out the roaring flames.